GENERAL SANTOS CITY, June 11, 2014 — Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles last June 6 after the opening program of the International Conference on inter-faith dialogue for peace at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City told MindaNews that “an announcement will be made next week” as to when the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law draft) would be submitted to the Congress, editor Carolyn O. Arguillas reported (MindaNews, June 8, 2014: Congress will get a “more refinedb and strengthened” draft Bangsamoro Basic Law)
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report (We’re rushing Bangsamoro law–Palace) last June 5, Deles said the Palace “would make an important announcement soon” to calm down the growing anxiety on the delay of the submission of the BBL draft to the Congress. The same was reported in other Manila media.
Yesterday, June 10, Deles’ office website posted the “Press Statement on the Status of the Draft Bangsamoro Law”. This is the “important announcement” Deles had referred to.
Jointly done and signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. and BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal the “Joint Statement” is posted in full below. The numbers in bracket are ours as references to the points we are commenting on.
The Joint Statement
During the historic signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), President Benigno S. Aquino III stressed a significant point:
“The Agreement we are signing today did not appear magically out of thin air, so too will our next steps have to involve the same trust and long term thinking that brought us to this shared triumph.”
Since then, the members of the Transition Commission have been working on these next steps to craft a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), consulting with experts and various stakeholders, and building consensus among its members. The President has said that he expects a law that is  “equitable, practical, and empowering, and which serves the interests of the entire nation.”
The BTC has in fact submitted to the Office of the President the proposed Basic Law, in accordance with the mandate given to it.
We acknowledge the urgency behind the immediate passage of the BBL.  However, we also recognize that a thorough, extensive and comprehensive review of the draft law’s numerous provisions is a necessary part of the process to ensure that these are consistent with  what the parties agreed upon in the 17 years of peace negotiation.
At present,  efforts have already been made to coordinate with the Senate and House leadership to ensure that the draft BBL is submitted to Congress when sessions resume in July.
We believe that  investing time in this process will redound to the benefit of all, laying the foundations for peace, prosperity, and progress in Mindanao––a precious legacy that will be cherished by generations of Filipinos, especially our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao, for years to come.
First: The mandate of the Presidentto the BTC is to draft an organic law for the Bangsamoro that is  “equitable, practical, and empowering, and which serves the interests of the entire nation.” As acknowledged, the “BTC has in fact submitted to the Office of the President the proposed Basic Law, in accordance with the mandate given to it”.
If so, where is the need of the review and the revision?
Second: But compliance to the mandate is not enough. As jointly stated: “ However, we also recognize that a thorough, extensive and comprehensive review of the draft law’s numerous provisions is a necessary part of the process to ensure that these are consistent with  what the parties agreed upon in the 17 years of peace negotiation.” This must be the very reason for “ investing time in this process” – a “thorough process of review” by the OP legal team to ensure Congress gets a “more refined and strengthened” draft.
What have “the parties agreed upon in the 17 years of peace negotiation?”
In their press statements earlier this month, did Deles and Palace explain in the review of the BBL draft the OP legal team wants to ensure that all the bill’s provisions are faithful to the Constitution? That is what the President wants. Any serious legal challenges to the BBL would also delay its implementation.
Does  in the Ochoa-Iqbal “Joint Statement” mean that since 1997, Government (GRP then GPH) and MILF have agreed to negotiate according to the 1987 Constitution? But the history of the negotiation – its minutes and notes – belies this. From 1997 to July 27, 2008 –the initialing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain – the Constitution was never among the term (TOR) of references of the negotiation. It was haram to the MILF.
However, that Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator as BTC chairman, agreed with Ochoa to issue the “Joint Statement” may show that MILF has agreed to have the 1987 Constitution as the TOR of the BBL draft. When MILF did agree will be known later. Perhaps, MILF has finally realized that this is for the long-term good of the Bangsamoro.
Third: In an earlier state, Deles said that the OP, her Office and the BTC “had been conducting consultations with some members of Congress” – evidently the Senate President, the House Speaker and some of the top officials. The “  efforts … to coordinate with the Senate and House leadership” must not be just “to ensure that the draft BBL is submitted to Congress” on July 28 but to give assurance of the constitutionality of the BBL draft.
What is the implication?
The President wants to certify to the Congress a BBL draft bill in such legal form and content which the majorities in the Senate and the House can readily adopt and pass. This is a gambit. How this will determine the game ending is most interesting.
And the most interesting is: When the BBL draft is submitted to the Congress on July 28, there will only be 703 days before President Aquino III steps down and out – 23 months. Can the Bangsamor be properly transitioned for its inauguration on June 30, 2016?
May we ask for a “joint statement” from the President and the MILF Chairman? Would they consider this fact of time – so short and can still shorten – crucial to the Bangsamoro?
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]